Through the Fire - Page 3 of 5
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Through the Fire

to help standardize processes and procedures related to the bank’s systems.

To generate additional fee income from people looking to get cash, Carver installed four stand-alone ATM centers in 2004 and 2005. One center, which opened in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, has done particularly well. “I had to fight these guys to do it,” Wright says of her staff. “They didn’t believe in the location. I lived in [a nearby neighborhood] for 10 years, and my dad’s church was in Bed-Stuy, so I knew-where can you go get cash on that end? It’s tough.” Although Carver does not release specific numbers, Wright notes “that there are limited banking services in Bedford-Stuyvesant and no banks or bank ATMs within dozens of blocks of the location we chose. So the community has responded very positively to this convenient and safe place to conduct banking.”

In addition, Carver teamed up with outside vendors to help it generate fee income from non-interest rate sensitive lines of business. It now sells life insurance in its branches through SBLI USA and annuities and investments through Essex National Securities Inc.

Carver would immediately realize that great customer service would keep the loyalists coming back. To gain greater market share, it needed to do more, so Carver set its sights on real estate development and commercial lending. In 1999, construction loans represented just under 4% of its total loan portfolio, compared to 11.4% in 2005. Nonresidential real estate loans, which include commercial and church loans, were just 8.3% of Carver’s loan portfolio in
1999, compared to 27.5% in 2005.

Carver went after that underserved market. When The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York wanted to double the size of its Allen Christian School in Queens, it thought of Carver first. “When we were looking to build the original school in 1982,” they went to the mainstream competition for a loan, says Edwin Reed, CFO of Allen A.M.E. The church got turned down flat. “Having been turned down by several banks before, Carver came together with a consortium of two or three minority banks willing to make the loan because they understood churches, they understood schools in the black community, and that’s where the relationship began.” So when it came time to do the expansion, Carver got the call.

Carver authorized a $4.5 million construction loan for the school, which turned into a $5.5 million permanent loan, including construction and additional upgrades. In addition, Carver provided $9 million of a $14.9 million affordable housing project for Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. “This is an area that most banks just shy away from,” says Carver’s chief lending officer, James Bason, who joined Carver in 2003 from Bank of New York, where he built relationships with developers, builders, real estate investors, and brokers.

CRITICAL MASS
While Carver remains rooted in the community it serves, Wright’s primary focus remains on growing the business and expanding services into more profitable business lines. This is what makes the Community Capital Bank acquisition a great fit. “It allows us to spread the cost


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